LIVING LIGHT
Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #22: Hot in Vienna

June 10, 2021 
Monika Weber-Fahr
It’s hot. And it’s getting hotter. After a cool and wet spring here in Vienna, we now regularly see 27, 28, or even 29 Centigrade on the thermometer, with 14 hours of sun throughout the day, blue blue skies, and relatively little wind. Like many people, I live in a flat without air conditioning, glad that temperatures go down in the evening, allowing us to cool down overnight. This is something we won’t be able to do in July or August. Climate Change has put Vienna, like many many cities around the world, on a path towards more and more Heat Days per year, defined as days with 30 Centigrade or more. Last weekend, I found out what the city administration is doing about this, and how we can all help - and so this week’s Living Light blog offers some of the facts and insights I learned.
How did she find out about this, you might ask yourself... Well, I did a tour with Austria Guides for the Future, one of several organizations offering guided walks and bike rides across Vienna that combine traditional sightseeing and historical storytelling with concrete insights in the green dimension of urban planning and interventions in Vienna. The tour was offered as part of the Wir Sind Wien Festival (We are Vienna), a month-long series of activities that includes, on the green side of things, a June 11 a bicycle tour through Simmering featuring new and green concepts of urban mobility, and on June 13, a walk through the greenest part of Vienna (Hietzing). Much of it may be in German only, but one can also arrange for English-only tours directly.

Yes, these poppies are blooming in the middle of the 5th district, part of the city's program to have wild plants grow in public and semi-public places, reducing the city's heat and improving liability. City-speak for this is "Naturnahe Grünoase" (Green Oasis, close to nature)
But back to what we ourselves can do: Given that the number of Heat Days in Vienna has been growing steadily over the past decades, and that many people, notably children and more senior folks, tend to not react well when exposed to heat over longer times, the city has developed a useful heat map, listing parts of town that are particularly exposed. This is based on the temperatures typically measured in these areas and based on the share of young people and senior citizens living there. Check it out. The third district, home to Christ Church Vienna - is not the hottest among them, but does have a few heat islands. The tour I took last weekend mostly focused on Margareten, the 5th District, which joins Favoriten (10th) and Ottakring (16th) for the dubious record of having more of these islands than other parts of town. Here, our guide told us, temperatures can be up to 10 degrees hotter than in other parts of town. Why? It’s about the way houses are constructed, the amount of green infrastructure in the streets, in terms of trees and other plants, and structural elements that can bring or prevent a cooling breeze.
Vienna’s way of dealing with the (increasing) heat is based on two elements: More green and more blue. The blue side of things is both visibly impressive and fun: It involves, for example, setting up some 1100 water fountains (Trinkbrunnen) on the premise that no one should be further away than 500 metres from an opportunity to drink. There are also Water Mist Showers being put up, in addition to mobile carts with a water misty function, and then, of course, there are water playgrounds and free bathing opportunities alongside the various shores of the Danube. How can one find these when you are in a hot apartment? The city now offers a free app that can guide you to the closest water fountain, water park, coolest park to sit in, and so on.
 
Green facades, vertical gardens, contribute greatly to lowering outside temperatures in the city, and so the municipality is offering subsidies to those greening their facades. This building houses Vienna's waste management teams ("48ers"), located in the 5th District.
While the city seems to have a lot of great plans and initiatives, regular citizens can do a lot to help too. One thing we can do is to apply for and run a Parklet. These are little wooden structures that will be built on top of 1-3 parking spaces, offering areas to sit and enjoy some greenery. Another way of being engaged is to become an urban gardener, looking after one or more Baumscheiben, planting and looking after flowers and other greenery there. A third thing you can do if you own a flat in a house: Convince your neighbours to invest in greening the front of your building. The city is currently offering generous subsidies for Green Facades. Also called living walls or vertical gardens, these nice looking green structures are becoming increasingly popular around the world and seem to be effective in fighting city heat.
As we move into the summer this year, let’s keep our eyes open also for those who struggle to deal with the heat. Coordinated by Caritas Wien, a number of churches are opening up their properties for people living in overheated flats with no place to go or who may be homeless, inviting them to cool down for a few hours a day. If you are looking for a list of facilities and tips on what to do and how to help, check out the city’s resources in German or English.
 
Water points like this one offer both drinking water and heat-relief through mist, this one is in the 5th District. Check out the app that tells you where there is a misty water point close to you.
Want to be part of Christ Church Vienna's CreationKeepers? Got some ideas for us? Suggestions or questions? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you!

Blog #21: Active, Not Anxious... in Vienna

June 2nd, 2021 
Monika Weber-Fahr
"This is our moment. We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature. Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid. Join #GenerationRestoration.” This is the intro-text to the 2021 World Environment Day Campaign, a day that is celebrated around the world on Saturday, June 5, including here in Vienna. Our Living Light blog today invites you to take a look around town and learn about activities offered and organisations contributing. Maybe you’ll find something that inspires!
World Environment Day is the UN’s principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment. First held in 1974, June 5 has provided opportunities for awareness campaigns focusing on many of the most pressing environmental concerns of the past decades, including, but not limited to, marine pollution, global warming, sustainable consumption, wildlife crime. Each year, governments, civil society organizations and businesses, as well as churches (!), organize events to advocate for environmental causes on or around June 5. This year’s motto is one trying to provide avenues for action: Reimagine, Recreate, Restore.
Across Vienna and Austria, you can celebrate World Environment Day by looking up some of the initiatives featured. Many of them are arranged to bring attention, on the same day, to Umweltzeichentag (Environment Tagging Day). The Umweltzeichen is a Tag that the Ministry for Climate Protection and Environment offers to organizations and businesses to distinguish themselves through environmental protection initiatives. Anything you can participate in yourself? Well, if you love walking in nature and consider yourself a Foodie, do check out the list of mountain refuges and huts offered by Naturfreunde Osterreich: Here you can enjoy local produce at special rates, singled out because of specific ecological and seasonal profiles. If you want to stay in town rather than venture out, another option is to visit Naturfreunde Haus Vienna right by the Alte Donau. Also closer to home, the Kunsthaus Wien (Hundertwasser Museum) invites everyone to visit their Pop Up Honey Shop, where, on Saturday between 2pm and 4pm, they will be featuring products from their own two beehives. In the meantime, the Austrian Alpenverein offers multiple ways for people to get active themselves by helping local groups of the Alpenverein restore pathways for hikers, spend time restoring forest areas, and so on. Other activities are also spread across the coming weeks and months, but announced on the occasion of Environment Day. For example, on June 8, one of my personal favorites, you can participate in an online visit with the Vienna City’s Wastemanagement team (called the 48ers, by their department name). There is also a little Facebook page with more information. Most initiatives are offered by individual organizations or firms. The general idea of the day is to mobilise action. And if you walk around Vienna with open eyes on June 5, across your market or downtown, you might see unexpected and fun things going on.
Also, church communities celebrate World Environment Day. The Anglican Church’s website features a number of parishes and also offers several special prayer ideas for the day. The Anglican Diocese of London seems to have even declared the Sunday closest to Environment Day, this year June 6, to be Environment Sunday.
If you do go out and participate in something to celebrate Environment Day, or if you find out about something noteworthy, do send a message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you!

Blog #20: Bee Careful!

May 27, 2021 
Monika Weber-Fahr & Charlotte Wiggins
World Bee Day was a week ago today, and so for this week’s LivingLight blog, we dug a little deeper into the lives of bees in Vienna, Austria, and the world, and into what they mean for people of faith. So, if you enjoy honey, like burning a candle, or are curious about what the little black-and-yellow fellows may mean for us as a congregation and for caring for God’s creation, check out the paragraphs below.

Honeybees are a busy lot - and when you look around, you can find them at work here in Vienna and in the surroundings. The bees on this picture belong to one of my own hives.  From what I know, we have at least two beekeepers in the Christ Church Community.   
Bees, the honey they produce, and the beekeepers that look after them, have long been part of religious lives. Bees even played a role in ancient mythologies, including in Hindu thinking and in Aegean and Near East Cultures, as a sacred insect and symbol of love and spring.  Already known as food for the Gods in ancient Egypt, honey has been harvested since about 10,000 BC and remained, certainly in Europe, the most significant sweetener for foods until the late medieval years when sugarcane was introduced from the East Indies in the 19th century, complemented at scale by sugar beets. The bible includes multiple references to bees, honey and related products, often in the context of longish walks in desert spaces. In the middle ages, monasteries across Europe became centres for beekeeping, mostly because bees helped generate highly prized wax that was necessary for the all-important candle. Across the Latin American Continent, bees were also a focus for priestly attention, documented through the Madrid Codex, a pre-Columbian Maya book dating back to the 15th century, meant to help Maya priests in their tasks; one of which must have been beekeeping, as reflected on 10 of the 112 pages of the Codex.
Beehives have long been a metaphor for Christian life. “The bee is the wisest and cleverest of all animals and the closest to man in intelligence; its work is truly divine and of the greatest use to mankind”, writes a 10th century byzantine author.  Also, St. Frances de Sales wrote beautifully and multiple times about the bees and their work, taking the bees’ way of working, coordinating and supporting each other as illustration for the quiet and pure work of God. And true to form, from what I can tell, bees and beekeepers have not one but several patron saints: St. AmbroseSt. Valentine, and my personal favorite, St. Gobnait (also known as St. Abigail or St. Deborah), an Irish nun of the 6th century, plus St. Bernard of Clairvaux (beekeepers, wax makers, candlemakers). Not forgetting St. Benedict whose order gave us the blessing of the bees prayer, St. Haralambos who is mainly celebrated in Bulgaria, St Bartholomew who is much associated with honey mead, as well as multiple other saints who were prominent beekeepers.
Faith-based beekeeping continues today. Here, close to Vienna, the Stift Heiligenkreuz and the Kleine Schwestern in Regelsbrunn portray looking after beehives as a way to slow down and focus life on the real essentials. In Regelsbrunn, two beekeepers (both Sisters, one of whom is in their 80s) look after about 40 hives. Visiting this small community of five sisters is a sure way to find both peace and inspiration in how their monastic life is in step with nature and how their faith and prayers reflect this harmony. Just sitting in front of a beehive and watching the bees come in and out, finding the right flowers, helping each other in cleaning and carrying pollen, information and food is enriching for the soul.

Honey from the Kleinen Schwestern Jesu, a local monastic group residing right outside Vienna, can be purchased at the Schottenstift Store in the 1st district.
If you want to support local beekeeping do purchase your honey not in the very large chains but in local stores.
 
And yet, bees are under threat. Most of you will be well aware of recent studies documenting dramatic declines in insect populations driven by deforestation, climate change, invasive species, industrialized agriculture, use of toxic pesticides and even light pollution, and bees are affected by the very same developments. In Austria alone, the honeybee population has shrunk by about 25 percent (around 100,000 beehives) between 1995 and 2015, and wild bees are just as much under threat. Across Europe, as well as in Austria and even in Vienna, there are a number of initiatives to support and protect bees, including but not limited to honey bees. Just a month ago, the use of pesticides was a major battleground. Just three weeks ago, the European Court of justice upheld a lower court’s ban on three insecticides linked to harming bees. It is amazing to note that Bayer went through three levels of courts to have this verdict confirmed, a court case that ran since 2013 and had the Austrian and the German Beekeeper Associations involved as major drivers.
So what can regular folks do to help? If you have a garden or a balcony: plant flowers liked by bees (nicely, most spices and herbs used for cooking fall into that category). Be a lazy lawn mower. Check out this little video - it shows quite specifically what you can do to help some of the hundreds of wild bees (in German, but very illustrative). Become a member or otherwise support organizations that support bees - there are too many to list here but you may want to focus on those that support beekeeping or are in the nature conservation space more broadly. Political lobbying really matters - not just against pesticides but also for more diversity in landscapes and agriculture. Think like a bee: Together, with many others, we can make a difference.
To get started, do go out and get to know the bees in your neighbourhood!  Vienna, self styled city of bees, offers amazing opportunities for this: About 700 beekeepers manage around 5000 hives within the city limits. A great place to start are the beehives on Vienna’s cemeteries, including the Marxer Friedhof (across from Mozart’s grave) or the Zentralfriedhof, but don’t forget the Botanical Garden, the top of the Kunsthistorische Museum, the Kunsthaus Wien, or the rooftops of various hotels, the chancellery, the city hall and the opera.  And do get yourself some local honey! A good address is the Schottenstift - where you can also find the very honey produced by the Kleinen Schwestern. Enjoy!

Urban Beekeeping is not only possible but also encouraged here in Vienna. These beehives can be found on the Marxer Friedhof in the 3rd district.
Picture taken from the FB site of Biezen, one of the local urban beekeepers. 
Want to be part of Christ Church Vienna's CreationKeepers? Got some ideas for us? Suggestions or questions? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you...!